Air Tanker 60, an Erickson Aero Tanker DC-7B, made an emergency landing at the Chico, California airport Thursday morning. A person who was monitoring radio traffic told Fire Aviation that the pilot declared an emergency after shutting down the #3 engine and losing all hydraulics. The video was apparently captured by someone on the nearby Eaton Road that borders the airport.
The pilots deserve kudos for keeping the aircraft on the runway.
Click on the image above and you’ll be taken to the Action News Now website where you can view it. The resolution on the video is very poor, but you can pretty much tell what is happening.
This DC-7B is 58 years old, manufactured in 1958. Over the last three to four years several P2V air tankers in that same age range have had serious problems with hydraulics that resulted in problems as they landed.
In order to eliminate the problem of retardant from the MD-87 air tanker entering the tail-mounted engines, Erickson Aero Tanker is making a major modification to their tank system. The company is adding an external tank on the belly of their MD-87s. This tank will have an exit point for the retardant that is quite a bit lower than the previous spade opening that was virtually flush with the belly.
Chuck Rhodes, Maintenance Supervisor for Erickson Aero Tanker, told us that the new exit point is in clean air well below the slip stream. At that location, the company expects the air flow will carry the retardant straight back, and will not force it up onto the wings and into the engines as before.
After experiencing what Erickson called “intermittent engine surges when dropping [retardant at] high coverage levels”, they installed air deflectors in front of the exit points for the retardant. But since they are taking this extraordinary step of a major modification to the tanking system, apparently the deflectors were not as effective as they had hoped.
The air tankers will still have the internal tanks and the capacity will remain at 4,000 gallons. Mr. Rhodes said they will not carry a full load this year until the company becomes more familiar with the new system.
This modification will require that the company start over again with the approval process, which includes receiving a Supplemental Type Certificate from the FAA and certification from the Interagency AirTanker Board.
The two MD-87s on exclusive use contract were scheduled to begin their mandatory availability periods on June 5 and 10, but the start dates are being pushed back by weeks, if not months.
In other Erickson news, they have four MD-87s and one MD-83 parked at the Madras, Oregon airport that have been stripped of their engines and have not been converted to air tankers. (See the video below.) The MD-83 is being used for parts, while they expect the MD-87s will be converted into air tankers after the bugs are worked out in the tanking system.
Erickson also has DC-7s. Tanker 62, now located at Redmond, will likely work on an exclusive use contract with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) from July into mid-September. Tanker 66 has the option to work on a call when needed basis with the ODF. Mr. Rhodes said the company hopes Tanker 60 will receive a contract with CAL FIRE.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has contracted with Neptune Aviation for the services of one of their most recently converted BAe-146 air tankers, Tanker #12.
The 3,000-gallon capacity jet aircraft will report for duty at 10 a.m. on July 15 at Porterville, California. Initially it will only be staffed six days a week, but will begin 7 day a week coverage on August 15. It will be carded for initial attack, can be hot loaded with all four engines running, and will sit on the ramp loaded with retardant like the S2Ts.
The tanker number, 12, had previously been used by one of Neptune’s P2V air tankers.
CAL FIRE is also contracting for one of Erickson’s DC-7s, Tanker 60.
Below is a video of Tanker 60 making a drop on the on the Calgrove Fire June 24 in southern California north of the intersection of the 210 and I-5 freeways. It is sporting a new paint job, having adopted Erickson’s new design that has been seen on their MD-87s and their other DC-7, Tanker 66.
In this video you will see one of Erickson Aero Tankers’ DC-7s making a retardant drop on the Calgrove Fire. At 6:15 p.m. PT today CAL FIRE estimated the fire, burning in SoCal north of the intersection of the 210 and I-5 freeways, had blackened about 100 acres.
Tanker 60 is sporting a new paint job, adopting Erickson’s new design that has been seen on their MD-87s and their other DC-7, Tanker 66.
We apologize for the quality of the video; we shot it off the television with a cell phone. Credit goes to ABC Los Angeles Channel 7.
There is an extremely rare site in the photo above, at least in recent years — two DC-7 air tankers on active duty at an air tanker base in California. CAL FIRE has arranged for them to be on contract so that their 23 S-2T air tankers can rotate in for their annual maintenance. The wildland fire season in the state does not appear to be ending, so they had to do something to provide the needed maintenance for their airborne firefighting fleet while the fire danger remains high.
The state of Oregon routinely uses DC-7 air tankers, but the federal government stopped contracting for them a number of years ago.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service in recent days has had a couple of P2V air tankers on duty. Yesterday Tanker 910, one of the two DC-10 11,600-gallon air tankers operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, was brought over from Albuquerque to be available at Santa Maria, California.